Giants can ease pain of past shortcomings

Giants can ease pain of past shortcomings

ARLINGTON -- The Giants are on the verge of winning their first World Series title since 1954, and never in their San Francisco days have they held such an advantage than they do right now.

Their 3-1 lead over Texas heading into Game 5 on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark gives them three chances to win it all. Never have the San Francisco Giants had that opportunity. Not in 1962, not in 1989 and not even in 2002, when they were on the precipice in Game 6 but lost to the Angels.

"That in itself is flattering and very humbling, too," Brian Sabean, the team's long-time general manager, said on Sunday after the Giants won Game 4, 4-0.

The Giants just have to get over the hurdle of Cliff Lee as they did in Game 1. If not, it's back to San Francisco for Games 6 and possibly 7 on Wednesday and Thursday.

There wasn't a sense of urgency about ending it as soon as possible in the Giants' clubhouse after rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner three-hit the Rangers over the course of eight innings on Sunday.


"We just have to win the final game, and we know that's going to be the toughest," Sabean said. "You hope you get the next win as soon as you can. But we're here for the long haul. We haven't made it easy on ourselves the whole season. Why start now?"

There are no active players remaining from 2002, but for those left on the coaching staff and in the front office -- Sabean, Dave Righetti, Shawon Dunston, J.T. Snow and Ron Wotus -- there's still the pain of what happened.

The Giants had a 3-2 Series lead and a 5-0 bulge going into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 6 against the Angels in Anaheim and couldn't close the deal. Manager Dusty Baker lifted starter Russ Ortiz perhaps a tad too early, and the bullpen collapsed.

"If we get one more this time, I may cry," said Dunston, an infielder on the 2002 team and now a Minor League roving coach who is with the team in the postseason. "I'm still not over it. If we win, it'll put some closure on 2002."

The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to steal the crucial game, 6-5. Scott Spiezio and Darin Erstad hit key home runs. In Game 7, the Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second, but the Angels scored four unanswered runs to win their first World Series title, 4-1.

Most World Series wins
Rank Team Wins
1. New York Yankees 134
2. St. Louis Cardinals 52
3. New York/San Francisco Giants 47
4. Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers 45

The Giants lost despite the fact that Barry Bonds had four homers and eight RBIs in the Series.

"It was like somebody punched you in the mouth and just took it from you," Dunston said. "The Angels earned it. They beat us fair and square. But it hurt. It hurt. It still hurts. If we win this it will ease the pain."

Likewise, in 1962, the Giants came oh, so close against the Yankees, losing Game 7 at Candlestick Park, 1-0, when second baseman Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey's line drive for the final out.

That year, the Giants left the original Yankee Stadium after the middle three games of the World Series trailing, 3-2. They won Game 6 at home, defeating Whitey Ford, 5-2. In the finale, the Yanks scored the game's only run in the fifth inning on a double-play grounder.

Starter Ralph Terry, who only two years earlier had given up the legendary walk-off homer to Bill Mazeroski that won the championship for the Pirates, kept the Giants at bay.

But in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants started shaking. Matty Alou led off with a bunt single, but his brother Felipe, and then Chuck Hiller, both struck out. Willie Mays doubled into the right-field corner and Matty had to stop at third. Roger Maris fielded the ball, and the Giants wisely didn't try to force the tying run home because of Maris' fine arm.

"I couldn't advance that runner over to second," Felipe, a former Giants manager and current consultant, recalled on Sunday. "If I had, Matty would have been at second and Willie's double would have scored Matty. It's still the sore spot of my career; my life, really. If this team wins, maybe I will forgive myself a little bit."

That team didn't win. Yanks manager Ralph Houk elected to keep the right-handed Terry in the game to face the left-handed-swinging McCovey. Richardson had to lunge for the line drive to one-hand it. A few feet further to his left and the Giants would have won the Series.

The Giants moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. Swept by Oakland in 1989, the other two World Series -- 40 years apart -- were the closest they have come to winning until now. These Giants are close, real close.

Last year, the Yankees had a 3-1 lead over the Phillies in the World Series and Lee beat them in Game 5 at Philadelphia. They returned to New York for Game 6 and won their 28th World Series at the new Yankee Stadium.

The Giants find themselves in a similar position: Up 3-1, on the road and facing Lee.

"The emotion is that you want this group to do it," Sabean said. "This group deserves to do it. They're special in their own unique way. For some reason it's our place in time. Sometimes the group picks the time or the baseball 'Wheel of Fortune' sort of speaks and the time gets picked for you. That's where we are right now. You just have to do something with it."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.